Chapter 1 : one
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There is also the establishment known as the Leaky Cauldron; the entrance from the Muggle world to the wizard’s very own London. And it’s a mess. Creaking floorboards, thin walls, peeling paint. Scowling staff, drunks slouched over the tables, and always, always, the incessant tramp of people walking through to Diagon Alley.
Jo spent her childhood there; her dad was the deputy manager, although what there actually was to manage remains a mystery. She lived in one of the back rooms, with hardly ever enough free time to actually go out into the street, helping clear tables or mop floors inside the pub instead.
And now, she works behind reception in the kind of place she always dreamed about when she was smaller. The Hotel Artemis, just down the street from Gringotts, and the most impressive building on Diagon Alley. Built from white marble, and styled after the Greeks, it towers above the rest of the street; imposing, beautiful, recognisable.
Catering to the top end of society, the five stars weren’t just put there after the Muggle fashion. The Artemis earned each and every one of them, and the hotel has a wonderful reputation. A reputation which will continue to be upheld.
“Hello, welcome to the Hotel Artemis,” Jo said brightly to the overweight balding man in front of her with a young woman who was quite clearly not his wife. It was the dyed platinum hair, tacky bracelets stacked up her arms and cheap shoes that clacked too loudly against the polished floor that gave it away. “How can I help you today?”
“I’ve booked a room,” he replied in gravelly tones. “Thompson.”
She flicked through the heavy book bound in black leather in front of her, looking up to smile again at the couple. She turned to the wall behind her, and plucked down a small golden key, motioning over a scruffy bell-boy. “Here is your room key, Mr Thompson, and if you need anything, don’t hesitate to call down. Harry here will take your bags up to your room for you. You’re on the seventh floor in the Magnolia Suite. I hope you both have a lovely stay!”
Her co-receptionist, Michael, looked at Jo sideways as the couple-that-wasn’t walked together to the lift. The blonde was clinging to the man’s arm, smiling and laughing at something he said.
“How much do you think he is paying her?” he asked, shuffling parchment importantly.
Jo snorted. “Not enough.” She massaged her cheeks with the tips of her fingers. “My cheeks already hurt from smiling, and it’s only ten-thirty. Eh, watch out, it’s management.”
Mrs Narcissa Malfoy, an attractive woman even though she was now in her late fifties, stalked up to the desk. She never walked anywhere. She glided or strolled... or stalked.
“What have I told you about gossiping?” she said, but it was a rhetorical question, and Michael carried on shuffling his papers. “And are you remembering to enunciate, Josephine?”
“Yes, Mrs Malfoy.”
She sniffed haughtily, and primly marched away to the other side of the spacious lobby, smiling and nodding warmly at the guests. As soon as she was out of earshot, Michael leaned on the desk.
“Don’t say a word,” Jo managed to cut in before he did. “Or she’ll sack you for ‘gossiping’. How many more people have we got checking in today?”
“Six,” he said, pushing her out the way to look at the book. But Mrs Fallaway always checks in a day later than she should, and we have got a party of fifty who’ve booked the entire top floor for an anniversary.”
“Who on earth has got the money to book the entire top floor?” Jo asked, astonished. “What’s the name it’s booked in?”
“Customer,” Mick sing-songed under his breath, so Jo had to look up with a friendly smile and find a room for Mrs Barnwell, who was crying heavily, her make-up running down her cheeks, and had a red raw finger from where she’d clawed off her wedding ring.
“Next time, you’re dealing with the hysterical woman,” she said when she’d come back down from personally escorting the poor lady to her room. “So, who’s booked up the ninth floor?”
But Michael had gone ashen.
“What is it?” Jo asked, raising her eyebrow. She wasn’t really worried; Michael was prone to being exceedingly over-dramatic. He said nothing, just pushed the book over to her.
“Potter,” she read. “As in, the Harry Potter and his entire clan?” Jo looked at him quizzically. “What are you, star-struck?”
“It’s alright for you,” Michael hissed. “You’re magical.”
Jo pulled out a compact mirror and smoothed back her hair, pushing a few strands to sit behind her ears, and rolled her eyes. “Mike. You’re magical too.”
He shoved a letter in an envelope violently. “You don’t understand,” he said. “You’re older. I was in the year with Rose and Albus. You were in Hufflepuff. I was a Ravenclaw.”
“No, you’re right, I don’t understand. What?”
“I’m Muggleborn! No-one I know fought in the war, and having to live in the same dorm as Albus Potter... you have no idea how inferior I felt. And I wasn’t sporty or clever and now I work in a hotel, behind a desk, and they all have really good jobs, and money...”
“Whoa.” Jo interrupted, holding her manicured hand up to shush Michael. “You have imagined a feud which does not and never did exist. You’re over-thinking, being over-dramatic, and this is a really good hotel, and a really good job.”
Michael still didn’t look convinced, so she adopted a more reassuring tone. “Trust me, Mickey. There is nothing to be worried about. And I’ll handle the check-in. When you see them walk through those revolving doors, go on your coffee break. They’re only here for three nights, you can avoid them if it’s absolutely necessary.”
“You will? I can?”
Jo gently removed some fluff from his royal blue shirt jacket. “Of course you can, and yes, I’ll help you,” she said, feeling incredibly motherly.
Michael beamed down at her. He was over six feet tall, and often had to take the night shift due to drunk guests who definitely thought twice about hassling reception when they saw him there. Jo straightened his tie. For all his stature, he was about as threatening as a puppy.
The phone on the desk rang, a magically muted sound.
“It’s the phone, Jo.”
All of Jo’s caring feelings towards the big guy evaporated immediately. “Would it kill you to answer it?” she snapped. She picked up the receiver, noting the blue flashing light underneath the dial which meant it was an internal call.
“Good morning, this is Josephine at reception,” she said, smiling at the guest which Michael was currently assisting. “Oh hey Andy. What’s the problem?.... Yep, I’ll get Dave to call you back.”
David was the deputy manager, and was currently chatting to the concierge about some Quidditch scores or something, so Jo failed to catch his eye to motion him over, and had to walk across the lobby to talk to him. She didn’t like leaving the safety of her teakwood reception desk, where she knew exactly where everything was, how it all worked and why it all was there. The lobby, and the rest of the hotel for that matter, was unfamiliar territory, where she felt out of place and unwanted.
“Hey guys,” she said, leaning on the concierge desk with Dave. “Andy from room service just called down, and she want to know what she should do about Mrs Barnwell’s order for three bottles of firewhisky and six boxes of chocolates.”
David looked at her quizzically. “She’s just left her husband,” Jo explained.
“Tell room service to give her one bottle, and promise that more is on the way. Oh, and give her an extra box of chocolate to make up for the delay. I doubt she’d notice that the rest of the bottles never turned up.”
“Alright then. By the way, did you know that the party who have booked the ninth floor are the Potters?”
David frowned. “Why are they coming here? I thought the Potters and the Malfoys didn’t like each other.”
The concierge looked smug. “They’re celebrating an engagement,” he said. “But the papers don’t know yet, and neither do you two.”
If you need anything, anything at all in a hotel, the concierge is the person to go to. He knows where to eat, drink, sleep, and watch, all for the best prices and the very best quality. He knows everything about everyone, and is a very powerful man in a hotel. He cannot be replaced easily. The Artemis’ concierge was Toby, who was forty-something but looked younger, and had that suave appearance which made every woman tip a little higher. Every time he smiled, even Jo had to remind herself that he was old enough to be her father.
“And anyway,” Jo said, “Mrs Malfoy just manages the hotel. She doesn’t own it, no matter how much she thinks she does.”
“Don’t bad-mouth the management,” Toby said, winking. “Management always finds out.”
Jo scoffed, but scurried back to her desk just as a swarm of people stormed in, dragging cases, chattering like parrots and laughing loudly.
“Oh dear Lord, it’s the hordes of hell,” Jo whispered to Michael. “Go down to room service and tell them that Mrs Barnwell is to only get one bottle of firewhisky and an extra box of chocolates to apologise, and then I think it’s time to take your break. If Mrs Malfoy asks, tell her you have a headache so I suggested you take the break early. Quickly, go!” she hissed, fairly pushing him out from behind the desk.
Ahead of the crowd, a black haired man with green eyes and a curiously shaped scar walked up to reception.
“Good morning sir, and welcome to the Artemis,” Jo said. One of the most important things about famous guests was to not acknowledge their fame, unless they were wrock stars, in which case fangirling was always appreciated. “How may I help you today?”
He held back a smile. “We’ve booked, I believe. The name is Potter.”
Jo flicked through the pages of her book. “Yes, the ninth floor. Are you celebrating something, Mr Potter?”
“My godson’s engagement,” he said proudly. “It’s a surprise for them, they think we’ve just booked a table here for dinner tonight.”
“In that case, may I suggest that the couple stay in the Penthouse suite? It’s our best,” Jo said with a smile. “Will you be checking in on behalf of everybody, Mr Potter?”
He looked slightly awkward. “Erm, Hermione?” he called. “Can you give us a hand please?”
A curly haired thin woman who often stayed at the Artemis for business stepped forward, disentangling herself from a plump French woman.
“Hello Jo,” she said, excitedly. “It was my idea to hold the celebration here- our family has grown such a lot, I don’t think we’d all be able to fit in at the Burrow.”
“Good morning, Mrs Weasley and I hope you all have a pleasant stay. Will you be handling the check-in for everyone?”
It took twenty minutes for the lobby to be finally cleared of Potters, Grangers, Weasleys, and Delacours, and there only had been one slight incident when the bell boy had nervously told Mr Potter that he was happy to be named after such a great wizard, but luckily Toby had come to the rescue by flirting mercilessly with the Weasley women and taking Mr Potter’s bags off Harry. Shortly after they had all left, Michael slunk back in.
“Was it awful?” he enquired, looking like he’d been sent to the gallows.
“No, it was like a normal check-in,” Jo said. “There was nothing to be afraid of.”
“I wasn’t afraid!”
“No, you were petrified.” The phone rang again, and Jo handed the receiver to Michael. “You owe me,” she mouthed as he had to politely take a booking from an irate German witch. Jo busied herself with sorting out the delicate room keys behind the desk. They were small and
She turned around quickly- Michael was still on the phone- and realised that the man at the desk was none other than Louis Weasley, trainee Auror... and her ex-boyfriend. She’d spent three years with him, the last year of Hogwarts and then they lived together, before she got the job here and he started taking advantage of her long hours by sleeping with Puddlemere United's reserve seeker.
“Sorry sir, how can I help you?” she managed to say with a degree of professionalism. It wasn’t as if she had once hoped to become part of this massive family.
“I think everyone else has already checked in, I couldn’t get here on time, I had practice. Could you tell me where the rooms are?”
“Certainly, sir. Your name please?”
He looked at her, astonished. “Are you kidding?”
Jo pretended to check the book, before shaking her head apologetically. “I’m afraid we don’t have anyone listed under that name, sir.”
“It’s Weasley,” he said, through clenched teeth.
She smiled brightly at him. “In that case, you’re up on the ninth floor. Do you have any baggage?”
“No,” he snapped.
“Mrs Hermione Weasley has all the room keys. I hope you have a pleasant stay with us, sir. The lifts are to the right, and Apparition is not permitted within the hotel.”
Jo had the satisfaction of Louis’ appalled face looking back at her one last time before he stepped in the lifts, and then Mrs Malfoy tapped her on the shoulder.
“Pull another stunt like that, and you’ll be sacked.”